Industrial cool meets grand-boho in this super-trendy Highgate home

Highgate - the name prompts thoughts of smartly dressed north London ladies power-walking their well-clipped little dogs; or of tea shops, or traditional interior design. 
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What you might not expect is super-trendy, colourful décor by Mad Cow Interiors, the company founded by equally colourful Sue Miller, 46, whose dog, Herbie, is the size of a Shetland pony. Interior designer Miller's Highgate house is eclectic - a word that's frequently overused but in this case, is a perfect fit. 

The big Edwardian home Miller shares with husband, Peter, 49 - UK chief operating officer of shopping centres giant Westfield - and their children Jack, 22, Max, 12, and nine-year-old Yaeli certainly has a sober, smart exterior, but once through the front door it is a four-storey explosion of colour and contrasts. 


There isn’t a dull corner in the house, from the kitchen-diner with high ceilings that features paintings, sculpture, glamorous upholstered chairs, a bespoke dining table and stunning lamps over the island, to the connected sitting room with its concrete floor, polished plaster walls and stacked slate fire surround. And the library displays not only plenty of real books, but also a fun, faux-book wallpaper. Strong grey-toned walls connect the spaces and also act as a perfect foil to hundreds of brightly coloured items. 

These powerful greys are warm and inviting, rather than cold as one might imagine. 
Canny colour: grey-toned walls are a foil for items in bright, bold shades

Miller paints the ceilings, too, which surprisingly appears to increase the height of the rooms. “White ceilings put a lid on a room,” she explains.

This is a big house so, after removing some internal walls, she has cleverly re-zoned the spaces with differing but complementary styles. The rest of the house builds on this theme. 

In the basement there’s a terrific pool room, with a floor painstakingly designed from images of record covers graphically reproduced to look like giant tiles, with acrylic poured over them as a sealant.

The first-floor bedrooms have beautiful trompe-l’oeil wallpapers, while the family bathroom, again finished  in warm grey, features lovely, iridescent micro tiles in the walk-in shower that have the magical quality of blown bubbles. 

At the top, a master suite of bathroom, dressing room, sitting room and veranda has been carved out, incorporating a poky former housekeeper’s room that used to be on the half-turn just before the attic, while the attic itself has been opened right up, with light from three sides. It features exposed brickwork, deep grey, sensuous embroidered  linens, trompe-l’oeil wallpaper and a stunning wire chandelier that introduces method into the apparent madness. 

This kind of look, a powerfully organised grand-boho, takes a long time to pull together — “18 months”, Miller admits, unrepentantly.

Rough-luxe look: contrasting colours and textures are vital to the vibe 

Waiting for the one
Miller’s career has been pretty pyschedelic, too. She started out at law school, ran her own recruitment business and was then a singer-songwriter, which explains the rock-chick echoes amid the house’s rough-luxe look. She went into interior design formally in 2007. After marrying Peter, who she met on a blind date set up by her mother, the couple moved a few times. 

When Yaeli was born they were in a north London house that “did nothing for us”, but were on the lookout for something better.

However, as Miller explains, London was in the midst of a double recession. They looked at lots of properties and lost out on about 15, while their dining room was piled high with “stuff” she had already bought for when the new home came along. 

Then they spotted the Edwardian house in Highgate. The minute they walked in, even though it was divided into lots of rooms, Miller knew she could open it up and make something of it. 

It wasn’t listed, but it was in a conservation area, so the exterior had to be beautifully preserved and maintained. 

Putting ideas into action
“Once we got planning permission we went up, down and sideways,” says Miller with characteristic enthusiasm. 

“There was a point when there were three walls left and no roof, and Peter asked, ‘Where is this going?’ — but I knew it would be all right. Even though the contractors had furrowed brows a few times, in the end they really got into it.”

She is an unstoppable creative dynamo. If she can’t find something she likes, she designs it. From wallpaper to furniture, there are many unique pieces in the house. “Once I have an idea in my head, if I can’t find it I make it,” she adds. 

But where is Peter in all this? “He’s so busy,” says Miller, “but he’s fundamental, because he has a construction background, so wall-moving, structural and technical stuff is his thing. 

“Sometimes on the design side, if I’m really torn, I’ll stick something under his nose. And then I’ll go with what he says.” Nevertheless, the energy that fizzes here is all hers. “I do it because I really love it,” she says. “People don’t realise it, but that’s why they’re attracted to it.”

What it cost: house in 2011: £1.6 million
Money spent: all building works and interior design, £800,000
Now worth: £3.5 million (estimate)

Get the look
Designer: Sue Miller of Mad Cow Interiors, at
Architect: White Adamski at

Bespoke distressed dining table by Moissonnier at
Pendant chandelier in dining room is the 14 Series by Bocci, from UK suppliers such as
Tempest Grey and Graphite Grey paints by Fired Earth at
Kitchen design by Roundhouse at
Lamps over kitchen island by Davey Lighting at 
Polished plaster in sitting room by Arik at Art on Walls, at
Giant concrete slabs in sitting room by Low Info at
Wallpaper in library is Genuine Fake Books by Deborah Bowness at
Jewel-coloured micro mosaics in family bathroom by Emery & Cie at
Swan Lake wallpaper in Yaeli’s bedroom by Nina Campbell for Osborne & Little at
Postage stamp stool in master bathroom by The Colour Union from Achica at
Personalised wallpaper in Max’s bedroom by JW Walls at

  • To view Sue Miller’s house and gain exclusive access to 19 other amazing houses, join the Livingetc House Tours.
  • North London — Highgate to Islington, May 8; west London — Fulham to Notting Hill, May 15; north-west London — Hampstead to Kensal Green, June 12.
  • Tickets are £32 from


Images by Simon Brown

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